USFL WEEK 5 PREVIEW & PICKS
We are at the halfway point in our USFL journey and one thing is abundantly clear. It was probably a smart move to play all the games in Birmingham since the Stallions look like the league’s best team. On the flip side, the Pittsburgh Maulers might just be the worst professional football team in all of human history.
If you pay attention to ratings, and you should if you want to see spring football continue, then last week was alright for the USFL. Going up against the NBA playoffs, the USFL did pretty well, pulling in more than 1 million viewers for two of the four games. It was similar ratings to some of the MLB games played last week, which is either great for the new spring league or bad news for baseball.
What’s most important for us is that more football means more betting on football and I had a decent enough bounce back performance last week.. Let’s see if I can’t continue the trend.
MICHIGAN PANTHERS AT TAMPA BAY BANDITS (-2, O/U: 33.5)
If you thought Jeff Fisher could stack two wins of professional football in a row, all I can say is, thanks for reading, Brandon Fisher. Congratulations on the defensive coordinator job with Tennessee State. For the rest of us, the only surprise in the Panthers 26-25 loss to the Philadelphia Stars is that the game was close and competitive. The Bandits couldn’t keep the Birmingham Stallions from staying perfect on the season, falling 16-10.
For the Panthers, Shea Patterson went the whole way, completing 9 of 17 passing for a pathetic 67 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. In spite of that, fisher still didn’t pull Paxton Lynch, a former first round pick, off the bench. Reggie Corbin rushed 12 times for 152 yards and a touchdown.
Tampa got a slightly better performance from its QB, Jordan Ta’amu in their loss. He finished 13 of 22 for 125 yards and a TD. He also led the Bandits rushing with 34 yards.
Michigan ran the ball well enough to stay in the game last week and the Bandits have yet to do that in four tries. Still, it’s Jeff Fisher vs Todd Haley and if Haley can’t outsmart Fisher, he needs to hang up his whistle and visor for good. Bandits 20, Panthers 13
NEW ORLEANS BREAKERS AT NEW JERSEY GENERALS (+3, O/U: 36.5)
The Breakers got back into the win column with a 23-16 victory over the Houston Gamblers last week. As for New Jersey, they took their turn putting the beat down on the winless Pittsburgh Maulers, cruising 21-13.
Kyle Sloter had an uneven, but yard heavy day or New Orleans, completing 27 of 43 for 414 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions. Jordan Ellis carried the ball 19 times for 104 yards and a score. Taywan Taylor hauled in four passes for 112 yards and Jonathan Adams caught six balls for 101 yards and a TD.
The Generals did their two headed QB thing, with Luis Perez contributing 11 of 14 for 102 yards and De’Andre Johnson going 9 of 10 for 98 yards and a TD. J’Mon Moore caught three passes for 104 yards and aTD.
The Breakers’ only loss of the season is to the undefeated Stallions, so they can still probably lay claim to the second best team in the league. New Jersey can present some problems if they’d just lean into Johnson as their QB and use his legs more (ala Lamar Jackson). They don’t seem overly inclined to do that, so I’m going with New Orleans. Breakers 24, Generals 20
BIRMINGHAM STALLIONS AT PHILADELPHIA STARS (+5.5, O/U: 36)
Birmingham survived a low scoring game against the Tampa Bay Bandits to keep its record perfect, winning 16-10. The Stars got a spirited effort from Jeff Fisher’s Michigan Panthers, but held on for a 26-25 victory.
Alex McGough completed just 53.8 percent of his passes for 126 yards for the Stallions a week ago, throwing no TDs, but also no picks. He added 39 yards on the ground and a rushing touchdown. Victor Boldon Jr. caught five passes for 61 yards.
Case Cookus, who is a real person I am told, took his first start and made the most of it, finishing 22 of 30 for 190 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He rolled off 35 yards with his feet. Paul Terry rushed 11 times for 62 yards. Diondre Overton had four catches for 73 yards and a TD. Devin Gray had seven grabs for 70 yards and a score.
At some point you just have shrug your shoulders and go with the Stallions until someone proves they can beat them. They’ve won shootouts and defensive struggles. I see no reason not to stick with them here. Stallions 24, Stars 17
PITTSBURGH MAULERS AT HOUSTON GAMBLERS (-5.5, O/U: 34)
The Maulers continued their quest to be the worst professional football team on the planet, losing 21-13 to the New Jersey Generals last week. The Gamblers couldn’t do enough in the fourth quarter to catch the New Orleans Breakers, losing 23-16.
Kyle Lauletta did little to turn around the narrative of bad USFL QB play by completing just 46.9 percent of his passes for 169 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions. Tre Walker was his favorite target (or the only one he could consistently hit), catching nine passes for 110 yards. No one else had more than a single catch.
Clayton Thorson wasn’t much better for the Gamblers. He finished 14 of 26 for 127 yards, one TD and no picks. Houston managed just 28 total yards on the ground in the game.
With the way the Gamblers struggled to run the ball a week ago, this could be the chance for Pittsburgh to finally break the seal on a dub. I don’t trust them to do it. I do think the spread might be a tad high. Gamblers 17, Maulers 14
Straight up: 3-1
Against the spread: 2-2
Straight up: 8-8
Against the spread: 7-9
Follow Adam Greene on Twitter @TheFirstMan.